April 2017: Newsletter 389

March Day Meeting: Trip to Matamata

It was a pretty early start to the day, to reach Dalton’s in Matamata by 9.30am – the commuter traffic heading into Tauranga at 8am has certainly increased dramatically over the last few years. It was pleasing to see that we had 16 gather in the carpark for a quick coffee before meeting up with our guides for the tour through Dalton’s huge processing plant, bagging department and store.

In 1947 John Dalton established a sand and shingle business on the family farm and over the last 70 years the family firm has steadily grown and occupies a huge excavated area where the sand has been removed. Our tour travelled around the rim allowing us to look down on to the areas where garden mixes are aged in windrows, continually turned and tested weekly. We passed through the area that washes and separates the sand into graded sizes and on to the bark grinding, and grading area. The bark is collected from the Tauranga Port logging pads and wharf areas.

We were then shown through the bagging department where 3 automatic machines, with minimal human involvement make the bag, fill it exactly, seal and stack it on pallets. Whirring robots that can turn bags over, spin, lift, flip and drop them precisely in place. It was mesmerising to watch the scene as the pallet loads rolled along conveyers to be spun and wrapped with giant rolls of Gladwrap. We noted with some amusement that 3 well-known brands of potting mix (cheap, medium and expensive), were all bagged from the same mix.

The storage area for the 100+ range of products is vast, and then we walked into another large shed to find that Dalton’s also store and sell a huge range of trays, pots and containers for the nursery and potted plant trade. Outside were bins of sand, pumice, builders mix, mulches, stones, etc for contractors or the home handyman.

The bus carried us back to the carpark where we thanked our guides for a wonderful tour of a family business. John Dalton’s son Neil now manages the plant, but enjoys his time looking after the sand department from the cab of a huge front-end loader, while grandson Matthew & son-in-law Dion are part of the management team, but took the time to help guide our group. It was also nice to have Dalton’s Mount Maunganui branch manager, Dean Wilby, join us for the tour. It was  an eye-opener for everyone and proved to be a very interesting morning. We departed to Matamata to have a relaxing lunch.

In the early afternoon we gathered at the lovely home and orchid collection of Maurice, who specialises in breeding and growing Masdevallias. The shelves in the small orchid house were packed with plants and we were lucky that some of them were flowering for us. His other orchid house was full of very healthy looking Cymbidiums and sitting on a table under a covered porch was a great collection of very healthy Phalaenopsis. Maurice’s vege garden and section were immaculate, but all too soon we had to leave for the return trip over the Kaimais.

March Evening Meeting

Present: 32 members & 1 visitor.

Our speakers were Rob Price, director, and Alan Ford, sales manager, of Fernwood Products, assisted by growers Selwyn Hatrick (Paphs) and Jacob & Anja Wessink (Phalaenopsis).

Rob and Alan explained the development of their products from sustainably harvested tree ferns, Dicksonia squarrosa and Dicksonia fibrosa, collected from privately owned farm/forests, mostly around Taranaki. Much of this land was clear felled for farming in the 1920s and 1930s but has reverted to native bush. Only 15% of any area can be extracted and the 50-60-year-old fern trunks are lifted out by helicopter, leaving a clean foot-print, but an expensive product.

The trunks are milled into slabs, panel and mounts for use in terrariums and for growing orchids and climbing plants. Most is exported to Europe as a high-value product because of its quality, but Fernwood has been developing a fibre or substrate that is carefully mulched from the trunk, for use as a medium for growing orchids. Working with orchid growers like Selwyn and Jacob they are developing their understanding of the fibre’s uses and strengths.

Selwyn Hatrick was already a convert, having used ponga fibre successfully with his Paphs in the 1990s until that supplier closed down. At last year’s Orchid Expo he was delighted to find Fernwood’s stall and has been very happy to carry out trials using 100% fibre or a bark/fibre mix on tissue plantlets. After 5 months he is already seeing improved growth rates, though he is suggesting there are techniques to be used to obtain the best results. (Note: I have written up Selwyn’s full talk from the evening for future publication.)

Jacob Wessink is a commercial Phalaenopsis grower, in the valley beyond Pahoia School, and he too has achieved some spectacular results growing his plants in 100% fibre. In one year his Phallies will grow from tissue plants to a full leafed plant in an 8” pot.

The fibres from the two plants harvested differ in hardness and water-holding capacity, and suit different orchids. Fibrosa produces a softer, wetter medium more suited to Paphs, Miltonias, Odonts, Oncidiums and perhaps Dens, while Jacob is having the best results for Phallies using the coarser squarrosa.

It was a wonderful night of information and entertainment – so much to learn and to talk about. Rob and Alan had their hands full after the meeting showing samples, answering questions and selling their product.

Popular Vote March

Conrad Coenen: Rossioglossum grande 1st
Vanda Manuel Torres x Bitz’s Hearthrob 4n 2nd=

Helen McDonald: Odcdm. Wildcat 2nd=

Barry Curtis: Paph. lowii ‘Monique’ x ‘Celebes Island’ 3rd.

Display Plants

(*= Note correct &/or new name) ([ ] = Not identified) Please do upgrade your plant name tags.

Barry Curtis: Encyclia cochleata var. gigantea;  Milt Belle Glade;  Odm.Mayflower x Milt.Goodale Moir;  Milt. Connie Warne ‘Gold Bars’ x Aspasia lunata;  Sl. Ironclad *; Slc. Red Jewel ‘Kumeu’ x C. Angelwalker.

Conrad Coenen: Lc. Mari;  Gomesa longipes;  Lycaste bradeorum.

Helen McDonald: Coelia macrostachya;  Sl. Psyche;  Sl Ironclad;  C. Elusive Dream.

Sandra Simpson: Cattleya dayana (syn. Cattleya bicalhoi –and others!);  Gomesa recurva; Restrepia antennifera var. angustifolia (syn. Barbosella cucullata).

Diane Hintz: Aerangis Callikot*;  Brassia bracheata* (syn. Br, verrucosa);  Sarco. ceciliae ‘Mum’; Sarco. fitzgeraldii ‘Pinkie’ x Riverdene‘Red Sparkle’;  Cochleanthes* discolor ‘L & R’ x‘Violet’; Ascda. Haad Ravai* ‘Fuchs Spotted Orange’;  Paph. Hsinying Macasar*; Hsingying’ x  Hsingying Redjo* ‘Red Wine’; Paph. fairieanum ‘Super Red’ x Hsingying Web ‘#14’.